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Challenges for an INTP Writer

Short story author who reads and writes young adult fantasy.


The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is often cited as a great resource for character building in our stories, and for good reason. While it may seem limiting to think that the entire world holds only sixteen different personalities, nothing could be further from the truth. The MBTI may categorize our characters but that doesn't mean that's all they can be.

The same is true with us. I decided to see what I was on the MBTI, while playing around with it for my characters.

I learned things about myself that I didn't know I didn't know. I learned about my own strengths, I learned about my weaknesses. There were some things that didn't ring true, but it was an incredible experience.

I tested as an INTP.

INTP's are described as philosophers, architects, and scientists. They are categorized with the preferences Introversion, INtuition, Thinking, and Perciving.

Introversion means they prefer to live in their own inner world, they work well alone. A must for a writer, in my humble opinion.

Intuition says that I would rather think a problem through than solve it through a more hands-on method. My guess is that's why I like outlines so much.

Thinking is logical, task-oriented, and impersonal. This is probably one of the big roadblocks to being a fiction writer. It's difficult to make your stories emotional if you are avoiding feeling anything yourself.

And last Perceivers like to keep their options open. We don't like rules or making decisions and love flexibility and spontaneity. I've seen this one credited for why we have trouble finishing things and don't work well with outlines. We'll talk more about that later.

So what are the challenges and blessings of being a writer with the INTP type? I've been ghosting around forums and blog posts on the topic and I think I've got some good ones for you.

The Perks of INTP Writing:

Starting with the positive INTP's do make good writers. We're creative and logical at the same time. We can find plot holes and write interesting stories. We're never wanting ideas for our next story. We'll have lists and lists of ideas just waiting to get on that page. And editing is easier for us than most, sometimes we'll even *gasp* enjoy editing.

During my research I found an interesting post on Reddit, I'll link it below, I don't know who the poster was but they had an interesting thought. INTP's have a habit of internalizing conversations. We'll think about how we want a conversation to go before we move to initiate it. This is something I do in my own life that I didn't even realize I did before reading their post. This is incredibly useful for writers telling a story. Instead of our own conversations, we can imagine those for our characters. I'm told dialogue is one of the most difficult things for new writers to master, and we've got a head start there, so go us.

Like I said earlier being able to work independently is a valuable asset for a writer, but as an INTP not only are you able to work independently, it's where we excel.

Many of the cited reasons for writing being difficult for INTP personalities is perfectionism, which can be debilitating as a writer, but at the same time, it is also a blessing. When we finally manage to say our work is good enough to be done, we've got a novel that's miles above our competition.

But What are the Bad Parts?

Being an INTP writer is not easy. There are few famous writers who can claim the personality type, and it's not just because it's one of the rarest types out there. While INTP personalities can make good writers it also makes writing hard. Not like an "I can't do this, it's too hard" hard but rather an "I've got a million unfinished books and a million ideas that are wasting space in my notebook, and I'm a failure at everything," kind of hard.

My personal writing weakness, as well as my weakness with just about everything I do, is not finishing. I've got a metric ton of partial stories on my Google Drive, I've given up and rewritten my current work in progress at least three times now. Never making it more than halfway before I get bored and start working on something else. I'm not alone, either, there are plenty of forums made by INTPs who are looking for tips on how to finish what they start without giving up entirely.

This is a serious problem for someone who hopes to make a career out of writing 50,000 to 100,000-word books. It can be devastating even. There is very little chance that you'll be able to get all that done before you get bored and lose interest. Especially, when you add in all the preplanning you have to do because of that silly little N and all the critiquing that's probably a result of stupid T. Finding a way over your habit of abandoning projects when you don't care anymore is essential for any INTP writer.

Then there's the planning and critiquing itself, which is a lot more fun than actually forcing words onto the paper. We have to learn when to stop there also. We have to discover when we've done so much research that it's spilling over into procrastination, and curb our perfectionism so that the project isn't on an endless cycle of edits and rewrites.

It's Hard, so Here are Some Tips to Help,

I've been looking for help myself in this area, and I found very little. That's why I decided to write this, to help anyone else who's struggling like I was. So here are some tips I've found in my own search.

The most important tip for an INTP writer, in my opinion, is to finish that rough draft. Get it done, and get it done as soon as possible. Our personalities make the first draft the absolute worst part of the writing process. We like the researching and the outlining, we're good at the editing, but we suck at expressing our thoughts and ideas. Get that draft done. If you're stuck outlining forever stop i don't care where you are in the outlining process stop and work on that draft. If you don't think your outline is done enough then outline as you write. Outline a chapter or two and write it then the next. If you're spending too much time researching make something up. If it's wrong you can figure out what's right while editing. Don't edit while you're writing either, your perfectionism might make that hard, but limit it to typos and misspellings, the rest can be done later.

Write every day, make it a habit. There are plenty of great books on habits that can teach you how to make them. I recommend The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Life Long Writing Habit by Chris Fox. Maybe I'll write a blog post on it myself sometime, but writing habits are essential for anyone hoping to make anything of their writing. Reading also should be a daily habit.

I've read having a writing buddy that's willing to kick us in the rear end helps us get things done, it's not something I've tried yet but I have had an audience. A demanding audience can perform the same function. I'm a notorious quitter, but even I have a series that I've managed to stick with for nearly nine years now because I've got someone waiting for each new chapter.

I know I told you to stop outlining, but in truth, outlines are incredibly important for our writing process, as well as dangerous. The important thing to remember is that your outline isn't a map to rigidly follow or you'll get lost. It's a tour guide, telling you what you need to know about where you are and giving you suggestions for where to go next. It's important to still have that flexibility our little P needs while conforming to the demands of our N. It's a difficult balance, but should you come to a scene in your outline that just doesn't work, feel free to skip it entirely. If there's something wrong about the setting halfway through, change it. Your tour guide is there to make sure you have a great time, not to make you do all the things on his checklist.

Another good idea that I haven't followed is to start small. Start with a short story or something you can finish before that limited time of interest ends. That way you can get into the habit of finishing what you start before tackling something huge. I wish I'd thought of this when I first started writing but as I'm in the middle of a 100,000-word novel that I'm absolutely determined to finish just to prove I can, it's a little too late for me. But maybe it'll help you.

The last tip I can give you is to be prepared to hate everything you write. We are naturally critical of ourselves and we expect the impossible from ourselves, but keep writing anyway. You don't have to like what you're writing every day, you just have to write it. The drafting stage is crap, you'll hate nearly all of it. Turing that crap into a work of art belongs in the editing stage, not the drafting stage.

Remember, a piece of crap can become a masterpiece, but a half-finished book will never see the light of day.

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